By now you’ve heard how great the latest generation Ibis Ripley V4 is. There are mountains of positive reviews but after 8 months of comparisons to its competitors, I still believe the Ripley is being sold short. I’m here to tell you a little different story of why I feel that the Ripley is the best in its class for 2020.
What is Best in Class?
The class being Trail Bike is what I would define as 115mm to 130mm of rear travel and 120-140mm front suspension. The trail bike is essentially the sweet spot that connects XC and enduro. Less travel and its XC and with more travel you have enduro. I consider the actual best in class a bike that focuses on being well rounded and without major faults. It’s the benchmark against which others are compared.
In my opinion the Ibis Ripley V4 is the most well rounded trail bike. It’s superb all-around suspension performance, geometry and agility beg you to hop, skip and throw the bike around with very little effort.
Ibis Ripley V4 | Price as tested $6099 | Shimano XT8100 – Fox Factory 34 – Ibis 935 wheels/Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.6 | Weight: 27.8 lbs (26.9lbs with Enve M630 wheels) w/o pedals | Size – Medium
- Excellent geometry that merges aggressive trail bike and agile Ripley heritage
- Plenty of room for 2.6″ tires
- Light!! 5.6 lb medium frame (with shock) is one of the lightest trail bikes on the market
- Large water bottle compatible
- Sleeved internal cables make installing new cables easy and quiet
- Short seat tube can accommodate long droppers even for shorter-legged folks
- The water bottle cage sits very low in the frame. This keeps the center of gravity low but small bottles can be a stretch to reach.
The Ripley is now into its 4th generation. Today’s V4 is much more capable than the V3 in almost every way. It’s stiffer, more compliant and more stable on technical terrain. The frame remains one of the lightest options in the trail category at 5.6lbs (with shock). Most other trail bike frames are now approaching or over 7 pounds! My factory-build with XT 8100 12 speed group came in at 27.8 pounds (without pedals) with wide Ibis 935 wheelset and 2.6-inch tires.
The Ripley is the class leader when it comes to pedaling and climbing efficiency. It’s DW link suspension refuses to squat when the trail turns upwards. Even on the longest climbs I never think that I need a more solid pedaling platform. While other bikes trade small bump sensitivity for a better pedaling platform, that is not the case with the Ripley. It remains active and plush even on the small bumps giving it great traction AND efficiency.
You might think with a bike climbing so well that this would be where the Ripley might lose some ground. Nope, it’s not the case. This is an area where I feel many other reviewers haven’t been accurate in their comparisons of other trail bikes. I mean sure there are other’s that might descend better that come spec’d with a 140mm Pike or 36 and roll on Minion DHF/DHR’s. The Ripley may be less of a ground-hugging plow bike and honestly, that’s one of the reasons I love the way the bike descends. Its springy agility really allows you to place the bike right where you want it. The bike is very easy to unweight allowing you to roll over bigger lines than you think a 120mm bike is capable of. Along with reasonably long wheelbase and slack 66.5-degree headtube, a 44mm reduced offset fork helps retain the Ripley’s well-known agility.
Suspension action in the rear feels nice throughout its range. My bike did come with the new “traction tune” Fox DPS shock. Read more about it here: Traction Tune Explained . I’m not sure how much of a difference I felt with the “traction tune” but the rear suspension action feels great throughout its range from small to large hits. I never feel harsh bottom outs from the big hits even though I frequently see the shock sag-o-meter at its max.
Ibis Ripley V4 VS Transition Smuggler, Santa Cruz Tallboy, Norco Optic and Pivot Trail 429
Let’s start by taking a closer look at some competitor’s geometry. Currently, I feel that these 5 bikes are the IT bikes in the trail category and the ones I have the most experience with.
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|Ibis Ripley||Pivot Trail 429||Norco Optic||Santa Cruz Tallboy||Trans. Smuggler|
|Reach S/M/L (mm)||425/450/475||408/439/459||420/450/480||425/450/470||425/450/475|
|HT Angle (deg)||66.5 (130mm fork)||67.3 (130mm fork)||65 (140mm fork)||65.7 (130mm fork)||66 (140mm fork)|
|ST Angle (deg)||76||74.6||76||76.7/76.6/76.4||77/76.3/75.8|
|WB S/M/L (mm)||1147/1178/1207||1130/1163/1186||1157/1196/1235||1158 /1187/1211||1159/1184/1213|
Compared to the Pivot Trail 429
The Pivot Trail 429 is most like the Ripley for sure. With the same DW suspension the Ripley and 429 climb and pedal very similarly. They are probably the two best in this category. The Ripley frame is around 3/4 of a pound lighter and the geometry favors more DH stability over quick steering with more modern geometry. If you mostly ride in less vertically challenged and tight and twisty terrain the 429 is excellent. I do like the color options on the 429 if that matters to you?
Compared to the 2020 Norco Optic and the Transition Smuggler
Both the Optic and Smuggler have similar geometry and travel but their builds lean much more towards the downhills with 10mm more travel up front and meatier tires. No question, the Optic and Smuggler can be pushed a little more on the downhills but they are both 3+ lbs heavier at similar price points. Throw some DHR’s on the Ripley and add 10mm of travel up front and I believe it feels as capable on the descents and still a couple of pounds lighter.
The Optic is definitely a great bike if you aren’t too concerned about the extra weight. The horst-link suspension gives amazing traction both up and down. When the terrain gets steep, fast and chunky the Optic is definitely great. I really love the Smuggler too but give the nod slightly to the Optic due to a little more modern geometry.
Compared to the Santa Cruz Tallboy
Like the Optic and Smuggler, the Tallboy has very similar geometry but a bit heavier frame weight. I have spent very little time on the latest Tallboy, but my initial impressions are that it’s more geared towards a bigger more aggressive rider that isn’t too concerned about the added weight. The Tallboy’s VPP suspension does not feel as efficient nor has quite the small bump sensitivity of the Ripley’s DW Link.
What separates the Ripley from the competition?
The Ibis Ripley V4 is very well rounded with superb suspension’s performance, geometry and overall weight. Its agility is truly what sets it apart from the rest though. This helps the bike’s already great climbing performance as well as its ability to unweight, hop and skip over rough sections of trail.
I mean if a trail bike has the same tires, wheels, shock and fork as an enduro bike but with less travel, why not just go full enduro? Personally, I’d choose the Ibis Ripmo over most of Ripley’s heavier “almost enduro” competitors due to the same reasons I prefer the Ripley. The Ripmo climbs super well and is lighter than the Ripley’s competitors despite having 20mm more travel.
Other bikes in this category that don’t climb as well can be tweaked so they pedal better, but then they lose descending ability. The Ripley is much more than just a great pedaling bike and can be morphed to cater for a wide range of riders’ preferences. Just increase the travel to 140, maybe add a volume reducer to the rear shock and throw some meatier tires on. I’ll choose the lighter weight and better pedaling any day! In my opinion, the Ibis Ripley V4 is the best in class 2020 trail bike.